Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Wed Jun 13 15:42:47 EDT 1990

Raymond's Reviews #69

%T Nocturne
%A Louise Cooper
%I Tor Fantasy
%D June 1990
%O paperback, US$4.95
%P 280
%G 0-812-50798-3

[Contributed by guest reviewer Cathy Olanich -- ESR]

Fantasies are stories about believable people whose troubles result from situations only possible in universes where magic and sorcery have direct, physical effects. Fairy tales, on the other hand, also involve magic, but rarely involve "characters" in the novelistic sense. The central character in a fairy tale is an everyperson character with a particular kind of emotional conflict to resolve, and the sidekicks or villains are aspects of that character's own subconscious mind.

Louise Cooper's series INDIGO, of which Nocturne is the fourth book, accomplishes the noteworthy task of melding fairy tale with fantasy in a manner that does not compromise the strengths of either genre. The protagonist, like Pandora of the Greek myths, has released demons upon the world. Unlike Pandora, however, she had ample warning that her action in doing so was rash, and unlike Pandora she is held responsible for what she has done; she cannot die until she has slain the seven demons she has released. She assumes the name Indigo (the color of mourning, among her people) and, armed with the talisman of the Earth Mother to assist her, commences her quest.

What distinguishes Indigo's quest from hundreds of other fantasy epic quests is Cooper's unrelenting emphasis on the fact that Indigo is both her own most stalwart ally and her own worst enemy. An eighth demon, named Nemesis, who is somehow part of Indigo, continually strives to misdirect and subvert her efforts by appealing to her weaknesses: sentimentality, lack of self-control, fear, despair. Yet with the aid of her steadfast companion, a telepathic wolf named Grimya, and other people she meets and befriends on her journey, she succeeds in mustering the abilities required to dispatch the demons she confronts.

Nocturne is an excellent example of the style of Cooper's series and illustrates its strengths and weaknesses well. Here, Indigo is traveling with a red-haired family of itinerant musicians and actors when she arrives at a town whose pale, drained, inhabitants are being drawn into a thorny, barren wood where nature's laws do not hold. After a number of false starts, she destroys the demon responsible by refusing to believe in his vision of doom and by throwing all her energy into imposing her own vision of health and order on his domain.

If Cooper's grand scheme has a flaw, it is that the INDIGO books move rather slowly to their conclusions, partly due to her zeal to exploit the psychological and archetypal resonances of Indigo's situation to their limits, and partly because the narrative structure that she has erected demands that Indigo kill no more than one demon per book. If you like fantasy to move with lightning speed, or value originality and surprise in world construction above stories that attempt to plumb "the depths of the human heart" [in other words, if you're a hardcore SF fan like me :-) -- ESR], pass these books by. But if you are looking for an author who is unafraid to navigate in deeper psychological waters, give these books a try. You may be surprised at how long they will haunt you.

[My take is more like: Aargh! Yet another telepathic-wolf story! -- ESR]

Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Wed Jun 13 15:42:47 EDT 1990

Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>